Exposed: Norway's secret hoard of whale blubber
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Wednesday 07 July 1999
The stockpile, shown for the first time on page five, is likely to increase anger at Norway's flouting of the international whaling moratorium.
The blubber is cramming a warehouse in the Lofoten Islands while the Norwegian government tries to get international law changed so that it can be sold to Japan, where it is an expensive delicacy. The Norwegians themselves eat whale meat not blubber.
Packed into three huge refrigerators, it comes from about 3,000 minke whales harpooned by Norwegian boats since the whaling ban was introduced in 1986. It was photographed by a young photographer working for Greenpeace, who managed to get inside the warehouse in Svolvaer, the Lofoten Islands' main town.
Last night, the warehouse owner, Ulf Ellingsen, said it contained about 90 per cent of Norway's 500-ton stockpile. He saw nothing wrong in it, he said.
But Peter Melchett, UK executive director of Greenpeace, which is actively campaigning against Norwegian whaling, said the existence of the blubber mountain proved that the Norwegian government was lying when it said its whaling was only a traditional hunt done to support local people and meet local needs. The pictures of the stockpile were "absolutely repellent", he said.
The Norwegians have never recognised the commercial whaling moratorium. After its introduction they used a loophole in the International Whaling Convention to continue whaling on a "scientific" basis - as do the Japanese.
But from 1993 they resumed an openly commercial hunt, awarding themselves larger and larger annual "quotas" of animals to be killed. This year they hope to take 753 minkes, but for the last six weeks their whaling boats have been harassed by activists from two Greenpeace ships. Violent clashes have resulted.
The stockpile is now so great that there is no room left in the warehouse and whalers have been observed throwing blubber back into the sea once the whales have been killed.
Norway is banned from selling its blubber to Japan by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which, since the introduction of the whaling ban, has outlawed trade in products of any of the great whales.
But the Norwegians are mounting a diplomatic campaign to get the minke - their main target - released from the Cites prohibition. Environmentalists fear they may succeed.
At the last full meeting of the convention, in 1997, they narrowly failed and they will try again at the next meeting in Nairobi in 2000.
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